On September 3, Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe tweeted a doctored photo saying his opponent, Republican gubernatorial nominee and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, supports “missile launchers” in airports.
The tweet contains a picture of an airport sign with the silhouette of a loaded missile launcher. The sign says:
Passengers are now permitted to carry missiles in Virginia airports.
Your safety is our priority.
–Gov. Ken Cuccinelli.”
Underneath the sign, McAuliffe wrote, “This is Cuccinelli’s Virginia.”
Politifact took a closer look at McAuliffe’s bizarre claim and traced the origins of the accusation, which has been made by other Democrat groups:
We checked whether Cuccinelli really has voted to allow armed missile launchers in airports. McAuliffe is not the only Democrat making this explosive claim. It began Aug. 19 when American Bridge 21st Century, a pro-Democrat PAC, tweeted, “Missiles in Airports? In 2004, Ken Cuccinelli voted against legislation to ban missiles and guns in airports in Virginia.”
That same day, an entity called Terry4Gov tweeted a doctored picture of a smiling, dark-haired, man with a heavy beard carrying a launcher on his shoulder in an airport terminal while a missile rises to his right, tailing smoke…
The basis for all the claims — including McAuliffe’s tweet, four days after the others — is a 2004 bill that banned bringing a “gun or other weapon designed or intended to propel a missile or projectile of any kind,” into an airport terminal. That included any “frame, receiver, muffler, silencer, missile, projectile or ammunition designed for use with a dangerous weapon.” Passengers checking firearms, law enforcement officials and approved airline employees were exempted.
“Critics of the legislation fought unsuccessfully to exempt holders of concealed weapons permits,” the Roanoke Times said in a March 13, 2004 article.
That’s exactly where Cuccinelli, then a state senator, took issue with the legislation. He was concerned that the bill could prevent people with concealed carry permits from possessing their firearms at airport drop-off areas, according to Anna Nix, a spokeswoman for Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign.
Politifact called the sign created by the McAuliffe campaign “misleading,” saying that Virginia’s state offers no definition of the term “missile.” Virginia law says it is illegal to shoot or throw missiles, Politifact says, “at vehicles, at or inside buildings and pointing or holding a weapon, including missiles, to induce fear. It also illegal to carry weapons, including missiles, into courthouses unless the person is a law enforcement official on duty.”
In 2007, Jessica Hall of Jacksonville, N.C. spent two months in a Virginia jail after angrily hurling a large McDonald’s cup filled with ice into the open window of another car in stalled traffic on I-95. Although no one was hurt, a Stafford County jury convicted Hall of maliciously throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle.
Additionally, the state has limited jurisdiction over airports. While state governments control what can come into the terminals, the federal government takes over when an individual makes it to a security check point.
Despite Politifact’s “mostly false” rating to McAuliffe’s claim, his tweet is still up, 27 days since Politifact’s posting.